Sunday, 4 March 2012

picture books are awesome.

I’m pretty sure that picture books are the only age category of children’s that I can blanket-label as awesome in general. Just saying.

by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, September 2006
magical realism

Told entirely in illustration, Flotsam documents the unique finding of a boy along a beach one day. A waterproof camera offers wondrous glimpses of an undiscovered water world… and a way to pass on the gift to the next lucky person.

At first, I wasn’t sure how much appeal the pictures-only style would hold, especially since the beginning features repetitive panels of the beach detailing each action undertaken by our young male protagonist. The grasp on our attention tightens as larger scenes start to fill the pages, wide-angle shots providing plenty to pore over. A series of illustrations focusing in on the boy’s expression set up our launch into the discovery of an underwater world.

And what a world it is! Wiesner combines imagination and deft skill with gorgeous watercolours to make for awe-inspiring pictures: a robotic fish within a school of similar animals; giant starfish rising like skyscrapers out of the water to form beaches upon which miniscule trees and brush can be seen; upon a turtle’s shell, a veritable castle. These illustrations are a must-see. Finally, the story’s turning point: a photo of a child with a photo of a child with a photo of a child with a photo of… you get the idea. Being a child himself, our protag knows just what to do. And the waterproof camera is launched back through the waves, through unreal worlds, until the next child finds it…

Rating: 4.2 out of 5

I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen
Candlewick, September 2011

Told entirely in dialogue, a bear sets off in search of his hat. Questioning every animal that crosses his path, the bear slowly loses hope until a conversation with a deer sparks his memory: he has seen his hat…

Um. Best. Book. Ever.

Okay, maybe not the best book ever. (I’m not ready to assign that title to any one book yet.) But holy eff, I’m seriously thinking about buying this one.

Similar to The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog in that only dialogue occurs, I Want My Hat Back differs in the fact that conversations comprise the plot line—and that there is a distinct lack of emotion (or change at all, really) in the simple but beautiful Chinese brush drawings of the animals. Somehow, this serves to accentuate the despondence of the bear even more. I swear, your heart will go out to the bear as he lies sadly on the ground and says:
My poor hat. I miss it so much.
The dialogue is more than adequate to carry the story. With hilarious responses from various animals, including a sweet moment as the bear helps out a turtle, the suspiciously lengthy speech from the culprit will delight readers. And when the bear figures it out and commences a staredown (and more… no spoilers here, hee), the repeat of the wordy denial is flat-out fabulous. Seriously. $18 CAD? Take my money!

Rating: 4.7 out of 5